Aviation Industry Corporation of China’s Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) subsidiary recently showcased new and improved features for the Z-10ME exportable attack helicopter at the Airshow China in Zhuhai, including capabilities to support anti-submarine and special forces operations.
The Z-10ME sported the Chinese character for "Osprey" on the tail rotor, although the standard Z-10 in service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is often referred to as the Thunderbolt.
Likely to target markets from the Middle East and Africa, the Z-10ME was represented in a sand and green camouflage livery and was refitted with sand/dust separation filters for its improved WZ-9 turboshaft engines, which are believed to provide 30 percent more power, at around 1,200 kW. The engine exhausts are modified from the standard Z-10 sideward-facing exhausts to upward-facing exhausts, which decreases its infrared signature.
CAIC has also installed domestically produced radar warning receivers and infrared missile approach warning receivers on the wing edges and the fuselage, as well as applique armor plates attached to the cockpit exterior to enhance the survivability of the aircraft and crew.
Other visible modifications include the external ammunition belt for the chin-mounted cannon, while sources claimed that the caliber was changed from 23 mm to 20 mm to better meet commonality with international users and NATO ammunition standards.
Notable munitions and payloads included the CM-501XA loitering munition and the SW6 air-launched drone, as well as the ET60 324-mm lightweight torpedo.
While it lacked submarine-hunting capabilities, these new capabilities would ensure that the Z-10ME remains relevant when embarked on surface combatants, which is already validated for the PLA’s Z-10.
The Osprey also boosts underslung capabilities, steered towards special forces operations, and the Jialing Global "Wolf" 4x4 all-terrain vehicle (ATV) was displayed alongside it at the show with underslung netting and the TL-4 anti-tank missile.
It was reported that the Z-10ME has a lifting capability of some three tonnes, with the Wolf ATV weighing just 350 kg.
This will give the attack helicopter the ability to deploy reconnaissance forces, while also providing close air support for land forces.